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Doctors Uncover COVID-19 Connections to Blood Clots, Dementia

With interactive analytics, doctors can draw insights from patient data in just a few seconds

Treating a disease no one fully understands is one of the greatest challenges facing doctors who care for patients with COVID-19. With no playbook for treatment, best practices are a moving target. Doctors are looking for answers to questions like, “Is COVID-19 causing blood clots?” or “Is there a link between dementia and COVID-19?” Epic’s SlicerDicer gives doctors the power to investigate questions and visualize trends instantly so they can zero in on important findings that change the course of treatment.

“When doctors and researchers use SlicerDicer to dig into the data, we get answers to our questions a lot faster,” said Michael Bolooki, MD, of Lee Health in Florida. “And when we make a discovery, we can share our investigation with colleagues to spur deeper research.”

Dr. Bolooki and his colleagues at Lee Health used Epic’s tool to quickly verify early reports that COVID-19 can cause fatal blood clots despite its reputation as a respiratory disease. After several patients in their ICU died unexpectedly from blood clot complications in April, clinicians at Lee Health pulled up data on all their ICU patients with blood clots. They divided them into two groups—one with COVID-19, the other without—and checked for risk factors in each group. A graph instantly confirmed their suspicions: otherwise healthy patients with COVID-19 were three times more likely to develop blood clots. Armed with this information, Lee Health started encouraging clinicians to prescribe blood thinners for these higher-risk patients—saving lives that might have been lost during a slower investigation.

At Mount Sinai Health System in New York, clinicians using SlicerDicer were among the first in the world to discover a connection between dementia and COVID-19 severity. They found that patients in their 60s and 70s with dementia—who tend to have multiple pre-existing conditions like diabetes—were more likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19 than patients in the same age range who don’t have dementia. They recently published their findings so that others can use this discovery as a starting point for further research on how to update clinical guidelines to care for elderly patients.

“Clinicians worldwide are using Epic to make important discoveries that are helping all of us write the playbook of best practices and treatments for patients with COVID-19,” said Andrea Noel, MD, a member of Epic’s clinical informatics team. “Epic has an important role in facilitating the discovery process during a fast-moving pandemic.”